5 facts you need to know about the Indian Act

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The Indian Act was made by the Canadian government in 1867. This Act is a set of rules. These rules allow the government to manage First Nations groups and their land.

The Indian Act also has rules that aim to remove the culture of Indigenous Peoples. In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Indian Act is like a big killing.

The Indian Act is still in use today. It still affects Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Here are five things to know about the Act:

  1. It began the Residential School system (1879 to 1996)

    Residential schools were made to change Indigenous Peoples. The children had to live in schools far from their families. They were not allowed to speak in their own language. They could not follow their beliefs. The living conditions were so bad that many died. About 6000 children died in these schools. It affected many generations of Indigenous families.

  2. The Act did not allow Indigenous people to vote (until 1960)

  3. Indigenous people could only vote if they gave up their special rights. They also needed to apply to vote. In 1948, the Canadian government decided to let all Indigenous people vote. But they would still lose some rights if they voted. So, few of them voted. Finally, in 1960, indigenous people were allowed to vote without any rules.

  4. It made culture and ceremonies illegal (1880 to 1951)

  5. The Potlach Law made Indigenous ceremonies illegal. One of the ceremonies that was not allowed was the potlach. The potlach is a time to give gifts to people in the community. When Indigenous people continued to follow their culture, they were arrested.

  6. It made reserves

    The Canadian government made reserves to make sure that Europeans had good land to live on in Canada. Reserves are areas of land where First Nations would live. Some were given a small piece of land. Others were given a big piece. The quality of the land was not considered. They also did not consider where Indigenous people originally lived. Today 40.6% of the 1,048,405 Indigenous people in Canada live on reserves (2021 Census).

  7. It controlled movement of people and goods from the reserve (1885 to 1951)

    Indigenous people needed to get a pass before they can leave the reserve. The government wanted to control their lives. This rule was used until 1951. This means that any Indigenous person who is at least 73 years old today lived under this rule.

    1. What can you do about the Indian Act?

      The Indian Act has made life hard for native groups. It keeps making things hard. This Act has made people think wrong things about Native people in Canada.

      When you hear someone say “native people don’t work hard”, or “native people drink too much”, you should know this is not true. The culture of Native people is great. It is still here even though the Canadian government tried to stop it.

      People are still deciding if the Act should be stopped or not. Everyone agrees that it is not fair. But, removing it is not an easy choice. This is because the Act also talks about the rights of Native Peoples as status Indians. It also talks about their treaty rights. Some people think that changing the Act would be a good idea. Others say that making new, modern treaties would be better.

      In the meantime, Native Peoples keep hoping for fair treatment under the law. Until this happens, real peace and understanding will not be possible.

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